Rehab isn’t something only rich people get to do. Similarly, while life after rehab may initially be difficult, it can work for anyone. Still, re-entering life after treatment for drug or alcohol abuse can leave you with a lot more questions than answers.
Based on my personal observations, study and more than eight years working in the field of addiction prevention, treatment and recovery, here are 11 tips on starting over after rehab.
- Commit to sobriety.
You’ve cleared the first major hurdle by completing treatment. In your quest to start fresh, it’s important to commit fully to sobriety. This means completely focusing on your recovery by going to self-help meetings, getting a sponsor, and actively working your recovery.
- Prepare for relapse.
It’s not a question of if, but when you might relapse. While relapse isn’t inevitable, it is likely. You could relapse more than once. It’s happened to millions of people who’ve gone through treatment. The coping strategies and healthy living behaviors you learned while in rehab will help get you through relapse, should it occur. Recognize the warning signs and act early to get professional help if you do slip. Learn from the experience. With relapse prevention, you’ll be stronger and better able to deal with situations that precipitated relapse the next time.
- Forgive yourself.
While past misdeeds under the influence of alcohol or drugs may feel like an indelible stain on your soul, this is your chance for a do-over. No, you can’t rewrite the past, but you can make changes in how you live now. Before any of this can happen with lasting results, however, you first must forgive yourself. You are human. You made some big mistakes. Forgive yourself, ask your Higher Power for help to continue a path of healthy, sober living and move on
- Focus on the positive.
Be honest. You want to think that your life will be better now that you’re out of rehab. But you’re also scared of what could happen, like relapse. The fact is that it’s normal to be uncertain, to wonder if you’ll succeed with the plans you want to put in place. Think of this as more than just a second chance; it’s like being reborn. You can make your life whatever you want, given the determination and willingness to put in the effort and time required. You’ve got more going for yourself than you give yourself credit for. Focus on the positive, be hopeful and get busy making your plans.
- Take care of yourself.
While it seems obvious, the truth is that many newcomers to recovery are in a hurry to get back to their life. Such haste is usually accompanied by a tendency to neglect good self-care. Without sufficient sleep, eating well-balanced meals, and getting regular exercise, however, you run the risk of running yourself down, depleting your energy and setting yourself up for relapse.
Taking care of yourself also means that you moderate and balance daily stress. For that reason, addiction experts recommend you not take on too much responsibility too soon. Focus on emotional stability and gradually work up to tackling additional projects and tasks.
- Make good use of schedules, routines and daily agendas.
If you want to make steady progress in recovery toward goals you’ve identified as important, including rebuilding your self-esteem, you need a stable daily lifestyle. In fact, one of the most important things for the newly-sober individual is creating and sticking to a schedule. This is especially critical during the first 90 days of sobriety, when you are the most vulnerable and uncertain. Time management is another effective tool to help you make and keep schedules.
- Build your support network.
No one understands what you’re going through better than those who’ve gone through rehab themselves – or the loved ones, family members and friends of those recovering addicts. It’s for this reason, among others, that support networks were created. Self-help, support groups and support systems, whether physical or online, offer nonjudgmental, ongoing encouragement and friendship for anyone who sincerely desires to live in sobriety. In fact, help is available 24/7, in one form or another. Rely on and build your support network. This includes your close family members. When you receive encouragement and support and find your footing in recovery, consider helping the newcomers to the rooms of recovery feel welcome on their own path to recovery.
- Get back to work, but not too soon.
Rehab likely took a chunk of time out of your life, including time away from your job. Now that you’re in recovery, however, don’t rush right back in, if possible. Take a week or two to get used to being home and plan your recovery schedule. Talk with your spouse or partner about your plans and make sure everyone knows what your timetable is for attending meetings and tending to your recovery. While work is important, your recovery must take priority.
- Create flexible goals that allow for growth.
Maybe the path you want to chart for yourself in recovery involves venturing into a completely different field. Keep in mind that the only way to achieve your objective is to put together a plan that consists of flexible goals, along with a timetable that can move to accommodate changing priorities. Instead of jumping into something altogether new, take the necessary time to research, get training or additional education, network, obtain references and referrals and see if this is right for you.
- Learn to make the right choices.
When it comes to decision-making, you probably have your doubts about the kinds of choices you’ll be able to make post-rehab. Will you make a mistake, opting for exactly the wrong one? How long before you feel confident in your ability to choose wisely? Here, the recommendation is to take your time. Gather the information and carefully weigh the pros and cons of each choice. If you’re still unsure, talk with your sponsor or trusted friend who knows both your situation and your goals. Discuss your readiness to make a choice. Then, sit on the decision for a day or two, if possible. After stripping away emotion and focusing on the facts, you’ll find that it’s easier to make a final decision after you engage in this thoughtful process. Once you learn to make the right choices, the right choices will be easier to make.
- You deserve to be happy.
There is no other life other than the one you are living now. What happened in the past that contributed to so much misery has no place in the present, other than making any necessary amends. In fact, when you’re starting over after rehab and want to thrive in recovery, you need to realize that you absolutely deserve to be happy. You can become the person you want to be, achieve the goals you deem worthwhile. Strive to keep learning, growing and healing and opportunities will present themselves.